Competition Authority apprehensive about Architects Registration Act

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SONNY SERITE

The Competition Authority (CA) has determined that there are provisions of the amended Architects Registration Act of 2014 that restrict competition and should be altered to develop a less restrictive framework which would achieve the desired objective of protecting the market and consumers, as well as achieving globally acceptable standards without removing effective competition.
According to the Competition Authority, this conclusion arose after a competition assessment of the Act was conducted after a complaint was lodged by the Botswana Institute of Architectural and Construction Technologists (BIACT) against the Architects Registration Council (ARC) in 2016. BIACT and ARC have been at loggerheads for the past two years with the former complaining that the latter is side-lining and ebbing them out of business.
According to the CA Bulletin, the Director of Communications and Advocacy, Gideon Nkala, the competition assessment report to industry stakeholders was revealed at a consultative meeting that was held in Gaborone last month, June 27.
Nkala told the meeting that the complainant, BIACT, has more than 200 members representing technologists, draftspersons and interior designers. In its complaint, BIACT maintained that section 23 of the amended Architects Registration Act leaves out specific professions and that section 48A in respect of sign-off causes delays and channels work to architects, in addition BIACT argued that the provision on work restrictions brings unnecessary limitations to the practice of architecture. Under the amended Act, all architectural work exceeding 250 square metres of ground floor area is reserved for architects, while work under 250 square metre of ground floor area is reserved for architectural technologists and architectural work under 150 square metre is reserved for draftspersons.
Under the new Act, drawings are to be counter signed by an architect then submitted to Councils for validation. In the past, there were no thresholds as architects, technologist and draftspersons used to compete in the same market sector, with individuals and companies creating market niches for themselves, giving consumers a wide choice. On the matter of new thresholds, the Authority determined that the provision creates markets allocations, confers market power on architects, reduces choice in the architectural services market, encourages collusion, creates barriers to entry in certain segments and may impede competition.
The Competition Authority recommended that the law should not restrict consumers options but should provide information on the various architectural services, qualifications, training and allow consumers’ a choice. It suggested that that the rigorous accreditation done by the ARC coupled with proper validation done by local Councils should provide sufficient assurance to protect the architectural market.
BIACT President Joseph Mfanyane lauded the Competition Authority for their findings, saying they have finally been vindicated. ‘‘This is exactly what we have been complaining about and we are glad a neutral and professional body has established that we had genuine concerns regarding this Act ,which basically left us at the mercy of the ARC which, by the way, is led by our competitors in the architectural industry’’, Mfanyane said in elation.